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The Mazda CX-5 has warmed enthusiasts’ hearts for several years as a spunky SUV. There aren’t many SUVs that can pack in a 256-horsepower turbo motor, sophisticated all-wheel drive (standard!) and more into a surprisingly nice SUV at this price. But Mazda has let this hot hatch languish without any major updates since 2017, and competitors are catching up.  

The Mazda is still fun to drive, and a bargain

The base version of the Mazda CX-5 starts at just $26,700. But For just $29,590 you can step into the 2.5 S Preferred version that comes with Mazda’s i-Activ AWD standard, which provides a connected sporty feeling. It also comes with leather trim, heated seats, and a driver’s seat with a memory function. Though the Mazda got a facelift for 2022, its bones are still from 2017 when the second-generation CX-5 was launched.

The CX-5 comes with a 187-horsepower four-cylinder, standard, but you can upgrade to a 256-horsepower 2.5 Turbo version, but that option raises the price to $36,850.

2023 Hyundai Tucson is a newer SUV

The Hyundai Tucson got a major facelift for 2022. In Tucson’s case, that facelift gave it a much more upscale look to it, more like a Toyota Venza, both inside and outside. It still comes with the Hyundai 2.5-liter four cylinder that makes 187 horsepower. It packs a lot of value, too, with the features many of us like, even in base SE or SEL trims, like Apple CarPlay, an 8-inch touchscreen, and several assistance aids like lane keep assist and lane follow assist.

The Tucson also gets Hyundai’s clever H-Tex seating, which is a leatherette that’s easy on the eyes and easy to keep clean. Tucson does come as a hybrid or PHEV version, but they’re much more expensive.

The Ford Escape is all-new for 2023

The new-for 2023 Ford Escape has all-new styling that gives this SUV a much-deserved chance in the market. The Escape has always been anonymous-looking, but not anymore, with Mach-E-inspired styling. The new Escape starts at $27,500, and for that, you get one of the newest Ford interiors, as well as a 180-horsepower turbocharged three-cylinder engine. It holds 65.4 cubic feet of luggage.

The Toyota RAV4 is a tough to beat utility player

A gray 2023 Toyota RAV4 small SUV is driving on the road.
The 2023 Toyota RAV4 | Toyota

The Toyota RAV4 last got a major update in 2019, and it makes more power, has more room, and to some it looks better than the Mazda. It’s the best-selling SUV on the planet right now.  It’s hard to fault the RAV4 with its spacious cabin, good looks, and the Toyota name to back up its reliability. Also, with a base price of $27,575 (or just $30,225 for the Hybrid), and the upgraded XLE coming in at just under $30,000, it packs in a lot of value.

It also makes more power than the Mazda, with 203 horsepower from its 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, but never feels as sporty. But, it doesn’t hold nearly as much, with just 69.8 cubic feet of room in the back with the seats folded.

The Mazda CX-30 isn’t much smaller, still packs a punch

A red 2023 Mazda CX-30 subcompact SUV is parked.
The 2023 Mazda CX-30 | Mazda

Take a look at the CX-5’s little brother, which is two years newer and has a base price much lower, at about $23,000. If you sat in one, you’d probably think it sells for $5,000 more. The seats are covered in a firm, high-quality fabric (or leather), and Mazda generally hides its cheaper plastics well behind chrome.  And if you don’t believe it, you can read Car and Driver’s review, where it’s compared to the Mazda 3 sedan.

But, it’s not just the materials. The base engine isn’t much to rave about, but the optional 250-horsepower turbocharged engine that wakes it up, compared to the 191-hp standard engine (which also beats the CX-5). That turbo motor works well with the tight suspension to give this small SUV a perky demeanor that belies its tall roof and generous cargo hold. It can hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds.


Why Is the Mazda CX-30 Suddenly Selling Like Taylor Swift Tickets?